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New law requires private space for moms to pump breast milk.

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

New mothers who need to pump breast milk on the job will no longer be relegated to a bathroom stall under a bill set to be signed into law today by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The law, which takes effect in January, requires employers of 25 workers or more to provide unpaid time and a private location for new mothers to pump their breast milk, so long as it doesn't cause "undue hardship" on the business.

Large employers in Eugene and Springfield contacted Wednesday said they already are accommodating new mothers.

That perhaps reflects the fact that Oregon has the highest-breast-feeding rates in the nation by a number of measures - women who ever breast-feed, those who breast-feed at 6 months and at 12 months, and those who breast-feed exclusively at 3 months and 6 months.

Oregon is the only state with an exclusive breast-feeding rate of more than 25 percent at 6 months.

"We have a pretty informed parent base, and a lot of those parents are employers also," said Judy Mieger of Cottage Grove, local leader of La Leche League, a breast-feeding advocacy group.

The law requires employers to give nursing mothers a half-hour rest period every four hours. The space designated for expressing milk has to be something other than a public restroom or bathroom stall. Employers who violate the law can be fined $1,000.

When Royal Caribbean built its 160,000-square-foot center call center in Springfield in 2005, "we did so with nursing mothers and employee welfare in general in mind," said Lena Kostopulos, the center's human resources director.

The building has two "sick rooms," including one with a refrigerator, for employees who aren't feeling well and for nursing mothers who need to pump, she said. Royal Caribbean employs about 400 workers in Springfield.

Eugene-based Market of Choice, which has 750 employees at its seven stores, "has worked hard for a long time to meet the demands of our new mothers," said Marcus Whittaker, human resources director. While it can be a challenge at some stores to find an appropriate space for breast pumping, he said, "we work very hard to do that."

At some stores, a new mother can use the manager's office. Other stores, such as the new Market of Choice at 29th and Willamette, were built with extra rooms that can be used by employees, he said.

At Sacred Heart Medical Center, new mothers have access to private rooms for pumping, spokesman Brian Terrett said. If an employee doesn't have her own breast pump, or if her breast pump is broken, the hospital has extra breast pumps available, he said.

PeaceHealth Medical Group clinics also have rooms available for nursing mothers, Terrett said.

"We believe it's an important enough issue we have to lead by example," he said.

Springfield Creamery, maker of Nancy's Yogurt, doesn't have any nursing mothers right now, but if it did, "we would definitely make this happen, without question," co-owner Sue Kesey said.

"We're family oriented, kid-oriented, employee-oriented. We would have no problem working around a schedule for a nursing mother."

The law directs school boards to adopt policies that require each school building to designate a location, aside from a public restroom, so employees can express milk in private.

At the Eugene School District, "It hasn't been any kind of a problem for us in the past in terms of accommodating mothers who are working and need to express milk," spokesman Kelly McIver said. Every school has some kind of private area, he said. "I think there are plenty of spaces that would meet both the spirit and the letter of the law," he said.

Cesar Chavez Elementary and Family School has had three or four "staff moms" since the school opened three years ago, Principal Sally Huling said.

They always find space to express milk, and sometimes that's in Huling's or another administrator's office, she said.

"They're my employees. I want to take care of them," she said. "We just try to make it work for staff so they can do that job."

Mieger said she was not surprised that large employers already are providing time and space for expressing milk. But she worries that smaller employers, or those with mostly male employees, will struggle to comply with the new law, which in her view, is "a beginning."

"The fact we have to have these laws is a very strange thing - that we have to have laws that say it's OK to nurse in public or to provide for parents who are the sole source of nutrition for their infants," she said.
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Title Annotation:Business; Many employers already are doing their part to accommodate mothers
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 17, 2007
Words:769
Previous Article:Voters speak clearly.
Next Article:BUSINESS BRIEFLY.
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